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NLRB issues sweeping complaint against FirstEnergy

8 May, 2014The U.S. National Labor Relations Board has issued a complaint charging FirstEnergy (FE), its operating companies West Penn Power and Potomac Edison, and other FE subsidiaries with a wide range of unfair labour practices during ongoing negotiations with the Utility Workers Union of America for a new labour agreement covering more than 700 workers throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia.

The complaint comes on the heels of another objection issued by the Board in February accusing the company with labour law violations at FE’s Harrison plant in West Virginia.

The complaint, issued by the NLRB regional office in Pittsburgh on April 25, charges the companies with illegally refusing to bargain with the union over the effects of recent plant closures and transfers of bargaining unit positions; repudiating the collective bargaining agreement with UWUA System Local 102; failing to provide crucial bargaining data to the union during negotiations; and engaging in other acts of bad faith bargaining.

“This complaint represents another milestone in our efforts to win justice for utility workers at FirstEnergy,” declared Bob Whalen, president of UWUA System Local 102.  “The wide-ranging scope and the serious nature of violations charged in the complaint demonstrate that something is severely wrong with this company’s labour relations policies.”

The complaint charges numerous illegal actions by FE, including:

  • Refusing to bargain over the effects of closing the Hatfield’s Ferry and Mitchell plants last October, unless the union agreed to mid-contract takeaway demands for the entire four-state bargaining unit;          
  • Illegally transferring a mobile maintenance crew covered by the Local 102 contract from Pennsylvania to West Virginia, and once again holding any effects negotiations hostage to FE’s concession demands;
  • Threatening mobile maintenance crew members with layoffs if they didn’t join another labour union, and then illegally recognizing the other union for the transferred work;
  • Refusing to provide crucial data to the UWUA on bargaining issues, plus numerous other unfair labour practices.

The NLRB complaint seeks a Transmarine Navigation remedy, which would require the company to resume wage payments to the impacted employees from the time the company is ordered by the NLRB to negotiate over the effects of the unit closures until the parties reach an agreement or a good faith impasse in negotiations.

The complaint also charges FirstEnergy with the following additional unfair labour practices:

  • Repudiating the continuation of the parties’ “General Labour Agreement” on or about May 1, 2013, even though the contract by its terms had renewed for another year;
  • Repudiating the existence of long-standing provisions of the General Labour Agreement that establish the procedures for either terminating or extending the agreement;
  • Failing and refusing to provide information relevant to negotiations over healthcare benefits.

Additional UWUA charges against FE bad faith tactics against union workers at Penelec in central Pennsylvania are still being investigated by the NLRB.

Members of Branch 180 of Local 102 returned to work in April after resisting a twenty-week lockout imposed by management just before Thanksgiving. FE failed completely in its efforts to use the lockout as a hammer to coerce Penelec workers to accept management’s unfair concession demands.  

Despite the lockout, Penelec workers refused to accept management’s demands for concessions in employee benefits, working conditions, and customer service standards.  UWUA members at Penelec returned to work on April 14.

IndustriALL affiliates united in support for UWUA workers fighting back at FirstEnergy in April.